On July 17, 1955, Disneyland in California first open its gates. Of course I wasn’t there- in fact, my parents weren’t even born yet. But looking at the countless news articles and video clips floating around today in honor of this milestone, I almost feel like I was there!
The opening day of Disneyland didn’t go exactly according to Walt Disney’s best laid plans. Paint was still wet, asphalt still soft, and trees were still waiting to be planted. Counterfeit ticket sales meant that this invitation-only opening day hosted over twice as many guests as anticipated. As if this wasn’t enough, a plumbers’ strike meant that toilets and water fountains were not operating properly and many vendors quickly ran out of food. In addition, Walt himself was attempting to film a live broadcast of the opening for ABC with well-known names like Art Linkletter. Funny to think that after such a rough start, the Disney Company has built itself up to be a trusted, revered, and imitated top contender in the world’s theme park entertainment game.
Though smaller than its Florida counterpart, Disneyland is big on magic and holds bragging rights as the original. It is often called “Walt’s Park” because out of all the Disney parks that exist in the world today on three different continents in four different countries, it is the only one that Walt actually visited (Walt did have a hand in designing Florida’s Magic Kingdom, but sadly passed away about five years before it opened).
The park originally contained five themed lands: Main Street, USA, a town street filled with old-timey, turn-of-the-century nostalgia rumored to be modeled after Walt’s childhood home of Marceline, MO; Adventureland, a somewhat tiki and jungle themed area meant to inspire feelings of a very exotic far away land; Frontierland, which depicts the legendary American pioneer spirit; Fantasyland, a medieval and fairytale themed dream; and Tomorrowland, which has space age features from a future that never happened but was always dreamed about. Three new lands have been added since the park opened- New Orleans Square, Critter Country, and Mickey’s Toontown. The park makes something of a “wheel and spokes” pattern around its iconic centerpiece, Sleeping Beauty Castle.
I was fortunate enough to visit from the east coast twice- once with my family in 2001, and once with Chris in 2013. Out of the three different Space Mountains I have been on (California, Florida, and France) the California version is my favorite! I also love the Indiana Jones Adventure and this park’s version of it’s a small world. Toontown is another area I love; touring Mickey and Minnie’s cartoonish houses is so fun. A great dark ride here is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which you can no longer find at Disney World. The Matterhorn is a tame but fun coaster that is unique to this park. And how can you forget about Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, a modern take on a traditional ride that ran from 1959-1998. There are even more magical attractions than these waiting for you at Disneyland!
In 2001, Disney’s California Adventure park opened just across the way, bringing even more fun and magic to Disney’s west coast lineup. Though it is a fabulous place and I had a wonderful time there, I don’t think it will upstage its 60 year old neighbor anytime soon!
Happy birthday, Disneyland. Thank you for teaching us a few important lessons about growing up:
Laughter is timeless.
Imagination has no age.
And dreams are forever.